A remarkable wine in a number of respects. Firstly, it won the title of Wine magazine’s Pinotage Champion of the Year in 2003. This was the last time the competition was held with the Shiraz Challenge replacing it in 2004, after the decision was taken to switch editorial emphasis from the Pinotage to Shiraz on the basis that the latter has more chance of doing the industry proud.
Was the thinking on the part of the Wine magazine editorial team justified? Shiraz plantings have increased dramatically in recent times but there’s a large amount of boring wine being made from it, while top-end Pinotage is all of a sudden really interesting again. You have a sense that because Pinotage takes such a critical bashing, there’s no room in the category for any but the most fully committed producers.
Second, the 2001 Pinotage capped a remarkable run of success for the Darling property with this variety, this vintage also placing among the Pinotage Association Top 10, as did the maiden 1999 and 2000. The 2004 and 2006 would later also achieve the same honour.
Consulting the tasting report that appeared back in 2003, the 2001 had an approximate retail price of R80, and the tasting note read as follows: “On the nose, mocha and coffee as well as black berry fruit. A well-structured wine with a long finish. Vanilla prominent, but also good concentration of fruit: lush and ripe. Keep for up to 4 years.”
Reviewing it now, it has to be said that the cellaring recommendation was very conservative, the wine still looking great. It shows red rather than black fruit, great freshness and all that vanilla has dissipated. Drank it listening to U2’s 1987 album The Joshua Tree and wished rock bands aged as well as wine.